The Marquis smiled.
“You analytical novelists would destroy for us the whole romance of life,” he declared. “I will not listen to you any longer. I fear ignorance less than disillusion!”
He passed on, and the little group at once dispersed. The novelist was left alone. He went off in a huff. Lord Chelsford plucked me by the arm.
“Let us sit down, Ducaine,” he said. “What rubbish these men of letters talk!”
I glanced towards the ballroom, but my companion shook his head.
“Angela is dancing with the Portuguese Ambassador,” he said, “and he will never give up his ten minutes afterwards. You must pay the penalty of having—married the most beautiful woman in London, Guy, and sit out with the old fogies. What rubbish that fellow did talk!”
“You are thinking—” I murmured.
“Of the Duke! Yes! There was a man who to all appearance was a typical English gentleman, proud, sensitive of his honour, in every action which came before the world a right-dealing and a right-doing man. To do what seemed right to him from one point of view he stripped himself of lands and fortune, and when that was not enough he stooped to unutterable baseness. He was willing to betray his country to justify his own sense of personal honour.”
“In justice to him,” I said, “one must remember that he never for a moment believed in the possibility of a French invasion.”
Lord Cheisford shook his head.
“It is too nice a point,” he declared. “We may not reckon it in his favour. I wonder how our friends on the other side felt when they knew that they had paid fifty thousand pounds for false information? We ought to make you a peer, Ducaine. The Trogoldy money would stand it.”
“For Heaven’s sake, don’t!” I cried. “What have I done that you should want to banish me into the pastures?”
“You talk too much,” my companion murmured. “In the Lords it wouldn’t matter, but in the Commons you are a nuisance. I suppose you want to be taken into the Cabinet.”
“Quite true!” I admitted. “You want young men there, and I am ready any time.”
“A man with a wife like yours,” Lord Chelsford remarked, thoughtfully, “is bound to go anywhere he wants. Then he sits down and takes all the credit to himself.”